Knife crime, especially amongst young people, is at the top of the country's political agenda and, sadly, it has blighted our own local area. Only this week a 16-year-old was in court for possession of a knife in Greenford and during the past year there have been tragic deaths of two young men in West Ealing and Windmill Park. Suggestions as to how we tackle this problem are coming thick and fast and talk shows and the tabloids are in overdrive.

People are rightly concerned about this terrible problem but I would suggest that a cool head and dispassionate assessment of the facts and possible policy solutions is needed for this most complicated of societal challenges to be effectively tackled.

Firstly, looking at the facts according to the British Crime Survey, violent crime over the last 11 years is down 40 per cent with knives being used in about eight per cent of violent incidents, a proportion that has remained level during this period. In London murder has declined slightly from 2.6 per cent per 100,000 people in 2000 to 2.2 per cent in 2007. However the victims are getting younger, with twice as many under-17s. People prosecuted for carrying a knife are now almost three times as likely to go to prison as ten years ago - from six per cent in 1996 to 17 per cent in 2006. Also only 15 per cent of knife carriers intend to take part in crime or gang activity, the other 85 per cent doing so only out of fear.

With this factual context the proposals this week by the Prime Minister to toughen up punishment, toughen up enforcement and toughen up prevention seem to be a balanced way forward. Anybody who is using a knife goes to prison; anybody who is carrying a knife is subject to either prison or a strong community payback that forces them to give service to the community - highly visible service, often on a Friday and Saturday night. The Youth Justice proposals to intervene at a very early stage with 20,000 problem families are more likely to work than more prison and offer a real way forward. Let's hope so.